San Francisco Lemon Law

San Francisco Lemon Law

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San Francisco Lemon Law Attorneys

The city and county of San Francisco is one of the most densely populated areas in the United States. The city itself is home to over 815,000 residents, but the surrounding area supports more than 4.6 million people. Combined with the San Jose and Oakland areas, this part of northern California is home to nearly ten million residents. 

Millions of people live and work in the San Francisco Bay area. Every day, many more visit San Francisco for school, work, hobbies, and recreation. Those who drive their own vehicles in the Bay Area rely on those vehicles to transport them safely. 

When California vehicle owners buy or lease a new or certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle, they expect that vehicle to provide safe, reliable transportation. When ongoing vehicle problems undermine that trust, auto owners and their families may be left frustrated, stressed, and fearful.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The experienced San Francisco lemon law attorneys at Wirtz Law can help you understand your legal options and take steps to protect your rights. 

Lemon Vehicle Statistics in San Francisco

In 2021, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recorded over 472,000 new and renewed vehicle registrations in San Francisco County. Millions more were recorded in surrounding counties, where those who live, work, go to school, and rely on San Francisco’s resources also live. In San Francisco County, nearly 400,000 of these registrations were for personal autos like sedans, pickup trucks, minivans, and SUVs.

Research by the California Public Interest Research Group found that the number of new vehicle registrations that end in a lemon lawsuit is fairly low. Between 2018 and 2021, only 0.45 percent of all new vehicle registrations in California became the subject of a court case involving lemon law. 

This does not mean, however, that the rate of lemon vehicles is equally low. Most lemon law claims don’t go to court. Rather, the state’s lemon law supports opportunities for automakers and vehicle owners to reach a settlement that doesn’t require a court claim. 

What Makes a Vehicle Qualify for Coverage Under the Lemon Law?

California’s lemon law is contained in the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. The Act doesn’t apply to every vehicle purchased or leased in California. To be covered by lemon law, a vehicle and its owner must meet certain minimum standards.

The vehicle must be purchased at retail.

California lemon law applies only to vehicles purchased or leased “at retail.” Most vehicles purchased at retail in California are purchased or leased through an auto dealership. Recently, automakers like Tesla have popularized the practice of buying a vehicle directly from the manufacturer. This type of purchase is also a retail purchase.

Not all California vehicle owners buy their cars at retail. Many buy used cars in private sales, such as a deal with a neighbor or one found by looking through used car ads. Private sales are not covered by the lemon law. 

The vehicle must be under warranty.

Lemon law applies only when the vehicle’s problems began while the vehicle was still under an original manufacturer’s warranty or a certified pre-owned (CPO) warranty. 

Some vehicles have extended warranties, also known as extended service contracts. These warranties may not be enough to trigger lemon law coverage. Talk to an attorney if you have questions about your vehicle’s extended warranty. 

The vehicle must be purchased for personal use or certain business uses. 

Vehicles bought or leased for personal, family, or household use fall under California’s lemon law. The law applies to many types of cars, pickups, EVs, SUVs, minivans, and similar vehicles that San Francisco residents or families buy or lease. 

Some business vehicles are covered by the lemon law as well. A business vehicle may be covered by lemon law if the vehicle’s curb weight is under 10,000 pounds and the business owns five or few vehicles in total. The suspected lemon counts toward the five or fewer total vehicles. Businesses that don’t meet these requirements may not have a lemon law claim, but they may have other legal options. 

The vehicle or equipment must be included in the lemon law.

California’s lemon law covers vehicles purchased for personal, family, or household use. It also covers certain small businesses with a suspected lemon vehicle.

In addition, California lemon law applies to certain parts or equipment included in motor homes, like the chassis, chassis cab, and drive train. Dealer-owned vehicles and vehicles maintained for test drives or demonstrations may also be covered by the lemon law. 

The vehicle must have undergone a “reasonable” number of attempts at repair.

California lemon law requires vehicle owners to give the manufacturer a “reasonable” number of opportunities to fix the issue before seeking compensation under the lemon law. This can be as few as two attempts to repair.  Vehicle owners fulfill this requirement by taking their car to a dealership for service.

The number of attempts considered “reasonable” varies. It depends on the nature of the issue and the circumstances. Often, a more severe problem means the manufacturer gets fewer tries to fix the issue. “Reasonable” attempts can also be based on how long the manufacturer has the vehicle for repairs. The longer the vehicle is with the manufacturer for repairs, the more likely it is that the number of attempts at repair will be deemed “reasonable.” 

The problem must begin within a certain time period.

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act applies to vehicles that begin experiencing issues while they are under an original or CPO warranty.  

If you suspect you can’t meet one or more of these standards, don’t give up hope. Even if lemon law does not apply, you may have other legal remedies available. Talk to an experienced San Francisco lemon law attorney to learn more. 

Building Your Lemon Law Case and Choosing an Experienced Lawyer

California lemon law allows vehicle owners to pursue claims against auto manufacturers without hiring an attorney. An experienced lemon lawyer, however, can make the process easier for you. 

You may not have to pay anything out of pocket for an attorney.

California lemon law requires automakers to pay the attorney’s fees and costs for a vehicle owner if the owner actually has a lemon vehicle. If your attorney wins your claim, they will ensure that their fees and costs are paid by the automaker as the law requires.

In addition, many San Francisco lemon law attorneys work on contingency. Under a contingency agreement, you do not pay attorney’s fees if the attorney doesn’t recover any compensation for you. 

An attorney ensures you receive a fair hearing.

California lemon law allows lemon law claims to go to arbitration rather than to court. Arbitration is a process in which a third-party arbitrator hears evidence from both sides and issues a decision both sides must follow. 

Many automakers encourage or even attempt to require arbitration. They claim that arbitration is less costly and time-consuming, making it a better option than a trial. 

While arbitration is typically less resource-intensive than trial, the savings often come at the cost of the vehicle owner. Examination of arbitration statistics demonstrates that arbitration decisions are often weighted in favor of automakers, even when a vehicle owner has a valid lemon law claim. 

Before you give up your right to a jury trial and an appeal and elect arbitration, talk to an experienced lawyer before making any decision about arbitration. Your attorney can explain why arbitration is or is not the best option in your specific situation. Whether or not your case goes to arbitration, your lawyer can fight to protect your interests and ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses. 

An attorney can fight for a settlement that covers all your losses. 

Many San Francisco residents know that California’s lemon law allows vehicle owners to receive a replacement vehicle or a cash “buyback” refund. Yet fewer know about the other forms of compensation the lemon law provides.

California lemon law requires automakers to pay attorney’s fees as part of compensating a vehicle owner. The law also requires automakers to pay any “incidental and consequential damages” or losses you wouldn’t have suffered if your vehicle had not been a lemon.

For many vehicle owners, these incidental and consequential damages add up. Towing fees may reach thousands of dollars if your vehicle repeatedly breaks down. The costs of rideshare trips, bus fares, and other forms of transportation you wouldn’t need if you had a working vehicle can add up as well. Your attorney can ensure automakers compensate you for these losses. 

The California lemon law also provides for the recovery of civil penalties for the automaker’s willful failure to comply with the law. This can be as much as two times the amount of your other damages.

A lemon vehicle represents an obstacle and a burden for many vehicle owners. You trusted that a newly purchased or leased vehicle would provide the safety and reliability you needed – and that vehicle and automaker let you down. 

If you’re dealing with a suspected lemon, talk to the experienced San Francisco lemon law attorneys at Wirtz Law APC today. We’ll help you understand your legal options so you can make an informed choice about your next steps. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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